Tourism to the Dominican Republic has cratered amid a spate of mysterious tourist deaths - the latest being 46-year-old Denver resident Khalid Adkins, who was removed from a plane "screaming in agony" as his kidneys failed. Adkins is the 12th American to die in the Caribbean nation, while scores of other tourists have reported falling critically ill, including a teenage girl from Argentina who has gone into a coma after she was rushed to a local medical center for dizziness, dehydration and vomiting.
According to a study by ForwardKeys which analyzes over 17 million daily bookings, bookings made between June 1st and June 19th for visits in July and August fell 74.3% over the same period in 2016.
"My deepest sympathies go out to the families of the American tourists who have passed away. Their recent and tragic deaths appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the Dominican Republic. Our analysis of leisure travel shows a striking correlation," said ForwardKeys VP Olivier Ponti, who added that the recent deaths are a "dreadful image crisis for the Dominican Republic," which is highly dependent on foreign visitors - 17.2% of GDP and 39.1% of export revenue according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
"Since the latest death on June 13th, we see a further erosion of bookings and no immediate sign of recovery," added Ponti. "So I hope the authorities are successful in providing explanations that will convince the American public."
Three deaths at the end of May, Miranda Schaup-Werner on the 25th and Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day on the 30th appear to have triggered the initial stall in bookings and the situation worsened with the death of Leyla Cox on June 10th and Joseph Allen on the 13th.
The deaths have not only caused a slowdown in new bookings; there has also been a spike in cancellations. During the period 1st – 19th June, cancellations of US bookings to the Dominican Republic, for travel at any future date, jumped by 51.2%. The day after Leyla Cox’s death on 11th June, cancellations exceeded 70%. -ForwardKeys
Meanwhile, as the Dominican Republic muddles through this crisis, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Aruba have seen double-digit spikes in bookings.